President Trump on Monday night sought to reframe his battle with Covid-19 in political rather than medical terms, suggesting that his recent diagnosis was not a mortal threat to his health or an indictment about his handling of the pandemic but instead an exhibition of presidential leadership.
“As your leader, I had to do that,” he said in a video posted online, appearing to suggest that exposing himself to the deadly virus by repeatedly ignoring warnings about mask-wearing and social distancing was simply part of his job as president.
Mr. Trump made the remarks in a video posted shortly after his return to the White House after a worrying three-night stay at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. In the video, and another clip posted minutes earlier that showed his return home aboard the presidential helicopter, Mr. Trump said he “learned so much about coronavirus” but urged Americans “don’t let it dominate you, don’t be afraid of it” and boasted of the country’s having the “best medical equipment, the best medicines.”
The announcement that Mr. Trump would be returning to the White House was a dramatic turn of events from a day earlier, when his medical team had presented mixed messages about his condition, saying that the president was feeling better but also revealing that he had been prescribed a steroid that is typically not used unless someone is very sick with Covid-19.
Of his decision to risk contracting the virus through his own actions, Mr. Trump said in the video: “I knew there’s danger to it, but I had to do it. I stood out front. I led. Nobody that’s a leader would not do what I did.”
His comments were recorded on the same balcony where he stood and removed his mask on live television upon his return from Walter Reed, and only a few hours after he had tweeted that he would “be back on the Campaign Trail soon!!!” despite ongoing concern from his doctors about his condition and guidelines that most likely demand that he isolate inside the White House well into next week.
“We’re going back to work,” Mr. Trump said confidently. “We’re going to be out front.”
The vaccines, he said, citing no evidence, “are coming momentarily.”